The basement of the Primary School in Southampton, MA was the first place I have felt complete shame, and it’s attached itself to my psyche and self-worth even until this day, 43 years later.
Currently, the brick building with bright white trim is the town hall, the same place that I found out they would not honor my survivor status, and the same place where little girls would kick open the bathroom stall door when I was in there. I should know better by now than to step foot into that building, and hopefully I will never have that need.
We were standing in a circle wearing our very, very short Brownie dresses and nothing else. (Why the hell were they so short?) I didn’t love any part of it, but knew to stand still and be sweet during the ceremony. I had to go, though, really bad, and I’ve never been known or congratulated for my bladder.
“Blah blah blah” sounded from the faceless leader’s mouth in an even slower-motion version of Charlie Brown’s teacher and mother and neighbor, and it slowed even more as I could wait no longer, and since I knew not to leave the circle, I remained and peed all over the floor. I was five. I can still see it. I can still hear it.
The next thing I remember is being in the basement bathroom with a nice woman, fluorescent lights trying with all their might to not flicker. I’m not sure who it was, but she rinsed out my clothes for me and told me it would be OK. Then she said I needed to return to the circle.
I don’t remember if anyone was looking at me funny or laughing because I kept my stare aimed at the linoleum floor, hoping it would open up and gulp me down its throat, damp clothes a physical reminder of my disgrace.
I’ve said before that I was a quiet kid, and although this was close to 43 years ago, it’s another one of those moments in my life that I will never forget. The feeling of complete humiliation and sense of loner status is part of me now. Still. It helped to make who I am today, then why do I still cringe when I think of it, and not simply let it go?